The Salvation Army Song Book
In the preface to “Salvation Army Songs”, published in 1899, William Booth wrote: “Surely no man has ever been called upon to make, or direct the making of, so many song books as have I.” While there is no complete list of the song books issued under his direction, it is clear that he had a significant influence on all the principle collections used by The Christian Mission and The Salvation Army for congregational singing between 1865 and 1930.
The earliest hymnbook known to have been compiled by William Booth was The Revival Hymn Book, a booklet of 112 hymns with 6 additional hymns on the title page and covers. This was published on August 4th 1866. Thirty-four songs from this book are included in the Song Book we use today.
This was followed in June 1868 by The Enlarged Revival Hymn Book, which included 333 hymns, with five additional hymns printed on the title page and end pages.
The Christian Mission Hymn Book
In early 1870, William Booth compiled The Christian Mission Hymn Book, a collection of 531 hymns. This was published, as Booth explained in the preface, because “we have not found one containing a sufficient number of hymns suitable for the regular services of a congregation, and at the same time adapted to all the requirements of open air and revival meetings”.
At about the same time Booth published some other books:
A revised edition of The Revival Hymn Book (125 hymns)
The Children’s Mission Hymn Book (123 hymns)
The Hallelujah Hymn Book (106 hymns)
So far, all the hymnbooks published for The Christian Mission included the words of the hymns only and it is still the practice in Salvation Army meetings for congregations to sing from books with words only, with the music being published in separate tune books for band, organ or piano accompaniment.
William Booth’s first tune book, Revival Music, published in 1876, had 494 tunes and above most of the tunes were cross-references to the numbers of the hymns in The Christian Mission Hymn Book and The Hallelujah Hymn Book.
In the preface William Booth said: “It contains such a collection of popular revival melodies as has never before appeared”. Responding in advance to possible objections to the use of secular tunes, he stated: “I have sought to print just that music which has been sung amidst the most overpowering scenes of salvation in this country and America during the last 30 years, and only those who appreciate such music can be expected to favor my design.”
Booth was at first reluctant to use secular music but soon realized the value of using melodies with which the people were already familiar. One example is Champagne Charlie is my name which became Bless His name he sets me free. (Chorus 149)
1878 Song Book
When The Christian Mission adopted the name The Salvation Army in 1878, there was an immediate need for a new song book reflecting this change. A revised edition of The Christian Mission Hymn Book was published in August 1878, under the title: Songs of The Salvation Army know as The Christian Mission. It contained 546 songs and a supplement of 101, including 89 songs not in The Christian Mission Hymn Book, omitting 75 hymns from the earlier hymnbook. The supplement, which was a revision of The Hallelujah Hymn Book, was also published as The Hallelujah Book.
Before the end of 1878, a revised edition of the earlier Revival Hymn Book was published with the title The Salvation Army Song Book, including 118 songs. This book was intended for services in opening new Stations and where ‘large numbers of strangers’ were unlikely to purchase the large Song Book.
New Songs, 1879-99
In July 6, 1879 The Hosanna Songs of The Salvation Army was published marking the emergence of distinctive original Salvation Army songs.
The first penny song book with the title The Salvation Army Soldier’s Song Book appeared in 1880. Several editions followed in the next 20 years.
In October 1880, Holiness Hymns was published. This was a collection of 101 songs selected from the various Song Books. Also, a revised edition of the tune book, Revival Music, appeared under the title Salvation Army Music, with supplementary tunes bringing the total to 532.
1899 Song Book
In November 1897, William Booth asked Richard Slater to begin collecting together songs for a new song book. From a total of over 11,000 songs, Richard Slater selected about 2,500 from which William and Bramwell Booth and a council; of officers made the final selection. The new song book, Salvation Army Songs, published in July 1899, included 870 songs and 216 choruses.
In May 1900, a new tune book, Salvation Army Music, appeared, containing 303 tunes. Brass parts were published in 1900.
1930 Song Book
A new song book, Salvation Army Songs, 1930, compiled by a Song Book Council established by General Bramwell Booth included 1,003 songs and 730 choruses. About 170 songs from the old song book were omitted and 300 new songs were included.
In 1928 a new Band Tune Book, with 541 tunes, was published and a four-part harmony edition, The Salvation Army Tune Book for Congregational Singing was published in 1931.
1953 Song Book
The next new song book, The Song Book of The Salvation Army, 1953 included 983 songs and 457 choruses. 208 songs from the 1930 Song Book were omitted and 186 new songs were included. In 1953 The Salvation Army Tune Book Supplement, containing tunes 542-756, was published in 1953.
In 1963 The Young People’s Song Book of The Salvation Army was published and contained 395 songs. The Salvation Army Tune Book Supplement No. 2 was also published at this time containing tunes 757-807, to provide tunes needed for the new young people’s song book, and some additional tunes for general use.
1954 American Supplement
The American Supplement was published to add to the Songbook used in North America songs of a patriotic nature (or culturally relevant) not included in the International songbook and songs that were not granted reproduction permission in the USA edition in a “words only” format.
1974 Keep Singing!
In May 1974, a Song Book Council was established to consider the need for a new song book. In a series of nine meetings the Council initially prepared Keep Singing! (1976), a supplement to the 1953 Song Book containing 102 songs (words and music).
1986 Song Book
After the publication of Keep Singing! the Song Book Council continued to meet over the course of the next ten years. The result came in 1986 with The Song Book of The Salvation Army. It contained 962 songs and 251 choruses. 236 songs from the 1953 song book were omitted and 217 new songs were added.
Simultaneously, a new tune book was in preparation to provide tunes for the new song book and for a new young people’s song book, Sing for Joy. Band parts for the new tune book were published in August 1988.
1987 North American Edition of New Songbook
In 1987 a new North American Edition of the songbook was published included a revised American Supplement.
Although Salvationists in every generation sing many new songs, the words of William Booth, quoted in each new edition of the Song Book since 1899, are still relevant today: “Sing till your whole soul is lifted up to God, and then sing till you lift the eyes of those who know not God to Him who is the fountain of all our joy.”